THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Intelligence and law enforcement agencies across the European Union have to cooperate better to fight against the threat of terrorism, the head of EU police organization Europol said Monday.
Speaking at a meeting with foreign journalists in the Netherlands, Europol Director Rob Wainwright said his organization can help track extremists, their arms and cash across borders as the continent ramps up its counterterror operations in the aftermath of the deadly attacks this year in Paris and Copenhagen.
Europol has built up a database of about 3,000 people who traveled to fight in Syria and Iraq — though Wainwright says the number is likely much higher.
By cross-referencing names on the database with other information flowing into Europol's purpose-built headquarters in The Hague, "we begin to see patterns emerging — connections ... between different countries in ways the investigators were not aware of in the first place," Wainwright said.
He added: "We can begin to see what the strategic dimensions of the problem — who ... is controlling the recruitment of these people, who's financing them, who's managing their travel movements to and from Syria and Iraq."
EU leaders agreed earlier this month to a raft of counterterrorism measures aimed at protecting their countries against terror, signaling a key role for Europol and its overarching vision of the threat.
The Hague-based organization has for years helped coordinate the fight against cross-border crime including money laundering, cybercrime and arms trafficking — all areas identified by EU leaders as key battlegrounds in the fight against terrorism.
"All of these are possible avenues for us to identify and apprehend these suspects before they carry out their attacks," Wainwright said. "But what is central to this is more effective, more systematic cross-border cooperation across Europe."